The Armenian Bar Association and the National Armenian Law Students Association have added another important dimension to their public outreach and pro bono platforms. This time, on February 3, 2018, volunteer lawyers and students will provide an opportunity for a segment of the Armenian community to pursue reducing and erasing their non-violent and non-serious criminal records.
Entitled “New Beginnings: A Guide to Clearing Criminal Records,” the February 3rd free clinic is designed to serve an often-overlooked and routinely-shunned section of the community. Some individuals who are stigmatized by their seemingly permanent and encumbering criminal records will be given a fresh chance to regain control over their lives, opening the way to potential qualification for housing, employment, residency, and public benefits. Although Proposition 47 and Expungements are offered county-wide by other groups, this initiative is focused on reaching Armenians in a less-intimidating setting with bilingual staff.
Proposition 47 was passed by California voters in 2014. The law not only reclassified certain low-level felonies as a misdemeanor, but it gave qualified candidates the ability to revisit their old criminal convictions and petition for resentencing. Low-level crimes include certain theft and drug possession offenses. Some benefits of reducing felonies to misdemeanors include aiding in the immigration process, pursuing higher education, and the ability to seek meaningful employment.
An expungement, on the other hand, is a more traditional and absolute type of remedy, resulting in the ultimate dismissal of a prior conviction. California’s expungement law permits qualified candidates convicted of a crime to file a petition for dismissal. The process includes re-opening the case, setting aside the plea, and ultimately dismissing the case “in the interests of justice.” Qualifying candidates cannot currently be on probation, parole, or facing new charges. The benefits align with Proposition 47 – but expungements do more than just reclassify convictions: they wipe clean a successful applicant’s criminal record.
The clinic is scheduled to take place on February 3rd at the Glendale Adult Recreation Center – 201 E. Colorado St., Glendale, CA 91205. Individuals are required to: (1) call 818-937-3152 or email ArmenianClinic@gmail.com to schedule an appointment and (2) obtain a copy of their court docket from an L.A. County courthouse. Attorney and law student volunteers will screen the client for qualification purposes and assist with the numerous court documents necessary to perform either Proposition 47 or Expungement relief.